Although the term 'Youth Academy' is a relatively new one, 'youth development' has long been an important part of the
footballing activities at St Johnstone Football Club.
Rarely in a position to be known as a 'buying' club, the club has long attempted to rear its own young talent for potential
use in the First Team and although - like most clubs - the number of boys actually making an impact at that level is only
a small percentage of the kids who come on board as youngsters, there have nevertheless been many success stories over
One or two have fulfilled the 'ideal model' of a youth development 'product' - coming up through the ranks to give great
first team service before advancing their career at a bigger club (and to Saints' financial reward!). However, those
examples will always be the exception - if Saints can rear their own talent that brings benefit to the first team for a
period of time then that is success.
However, it won't always be Saints who benefit most from their efforts. Sometimes, players will move on to find their
'own level' and still make a telling contribution to Scottish senior football and their own careers.
The players listed below are a mix of all the above from over the years:
Ally McCoist - East Kilbride teenager McCoist joined the Muirton Park-based Saints in 1978 and after
plying his trade in the reserves, he made his debut towards the end of season 1978/79. More appearances came the
following term but it was in season 1980/81 that he really made an impact with an impressive tally of 23 goals, including
a 4-goal haul in a 6-2 win over Berwick Rangers in a televised game at Muirton.
When he started the following season in similar hot form - four goals in five League Cup sectional games, it was obvious
that Saints would struggle to hold onto him and a fee of £400,000 took him to Sunderland min August 1981.
McCoist is best know for his time with Rangers as both player and manager - he scored 251 goals for the Ibrox side - and
he was also hugely successful on the international stage - 19 goals in 61 Scotland appearances.
Paul Deas - Perth-born but Kinross-based defender who was a 'schoolboy signing' for the club and who did sufficiently
well as to allow him to gain two Scotland Under 21 caps - making his decision to put university studies on hold the right
one. Paul made his debut in September 1990, coming on as a substitute in the famous 5-0 win over Aberdeen at
McDiarmid Park and went on to play nearly 90 matches in either fullback or centre-half positions.
Similar good service was given to Livingston and Brechin City while he also had shorter spels with Stirling Albion,
Partick Thistle and Ross County
Philip Scott - Another local lad, hailing from Scone, after being farmed out to Scone Thistle, ‘Fizzy’
Scott signed for the Alex Totten-led Saints 1991 and after an initial diet of reserve team football Philip established
himself as a key member of the midfielder of the Premier League Saints.
Subsequent managers John McClelland and Paul Sturrock were both fans of the player and he proved himself a key
member of the latter's 1996-97 First Division Championship squad.Four Under 21 caps followed – three of them in the
Toulon Tournament in the summer of 1994.
After the best part of eight years he secured a move to Sheffield Wednesday for a £100,000 fee but serious injury
wrecked his chance of making a name for himself at Hillsborough. Unable to overcome his injury, Fizzy retired in 2003
at the age of 29.
Stuart McCluskey - Central defender McCluskey came through the youth ranks in Perth alongside
Danny Griffin and for a spell they became a formidable young pairing at the heart of the defence – arguably our finest
ever youth development ‘pairing’.
Stuart played over 100 first games for Saints and his talent was recognised at international level where he gained U19
caps and then notably U21 caps – he captained that Scotland side and became the most capped U21 player in Scotland’s
Sadly, Stuart didn’t kick on from his time at McDiarmid Park and gave brief service to Clyde, Morton and Dundee before
heading to Australia in 2007.
Danny Griffin - Brought to Saints from Northern Ireland as a 15 year old, Danny plied his trade in the
reserves before breaking through and making a centre-half berth his own for 124 first team matches, often in
partnership with fellow-development success Stuart McCluskey.
Danny made a great impact at international level for Northern Ireland and after making debut in May 1996 against West
Germany he went on to gain a further 28 caps.Danny’s talents were spotted by Derby County who offered Saints £1
million for his services but Danny opted to stay put.
After seven years with Saints, Danny moved to Dundee United before later stints with Stockport County, Aberdeen, Dundee,
Ross County and Livingston but it’s fair to say that his years in Perth were the best of his career.
Andy Whiteford - Incredibly, at the same time as McCluskey and Griffin were making an impression
Johnstone first team and international affairs, Saints boasted a third talented young defender in the shape of fullback Andy
Whiteford and although he didn’t make as big an impression as the other two, he did well in the game nonetheless.
Andy made 17 appearances for Saints and gained one Scotland Under 21 cap (v USA in the 1997 Toulon Tournament) before
moving on to Stirling Albion, Clydebank and Hamilton Accies.
Kieran McAnespie - The crop of defensive talent listed above were soon followed by a young talent who
was equally comfortable as a fullback or winger. Kieran made his debut in a First Division game v Clydebank in February
1997 as Saints marched to the First Division championship but he was sufficiently talented still to be able to make an
at Premier League level.
He played 50 matches in the seasons which followed and memorably scored goals in wins v both Celtic and Rangers. That brought international recognition at Under 21 level (he gained six caps at that level) and in 1998 the then Scotland manager Craig Brown selected him as one of four young players to accompany the full international squad to the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in France.
A five-figure move to Fulham followed but he couldn’t make the breakthrough at Craven Cottage and there followed, over the years, spells with ten other clubs plus a return spell with Saints.
St Johnstone Football Club Youth Academy, McDiarmid Park, Crieff Road, Perth, PH1 2SJ Registered in Scotland 7629
Unless otherwise stated all photographs on this site are ©Perthshire Picture Agency and may not be used without permission.
Website by BedfordBeck